Location Five

5. The Dog and Bell

Homeward Bound (a sea shanty)

Deptford’s Drinking Life

Audio Description – Caption Five
Summary for caption five

Deptford was famous for its naval shipbuilding yard, founded in 1513 by Henry VIII. But life in Deptford’s dockers’ and naval community was at times unpleasant. Overcrowding in housing was common, so people tended to spend their time in public spaces – in particular public houses. Indeed, Deptford’s history as a drinking town has been commented upon by many writers, and by politicians and those in nobility.

When Deptford fell out of favour as a trading and shipping town in the 19th century, it became a place synonymous with poverty. Previously, half of Europe was sending its livestock to the town: 30,000 sheep would be moved through the centre each week. But as this number dropped to as low as 5,000, and the dockyard saw a decline in use, people lost their jobs and spent more time in the pubs. Charles Booth remarked:

At Deptford especially, the drinking is fearful. Many a man earns little in two days, and spends every penny of it on drink in the two following days.” 

sepia image of a pub - the royal marine, Deptford
Royal Marine, 116 Prince Street, Deptford

However, pubs also became a place to discuss ideas and arrange protests about working conditions. In 1889, the dock workers went on strike, with reports of a large ‘mob marching on the Metropolis’.  The history of working Deptford men and women arranging strikes and protests continued, and on September 27th 1911 The Times reported:

“Five hundred men at Dead Man’s Dock, Deptford, are on strike owning, it is stated, to the action of the owners of the dock who, the men declare, have broken the recent agreement. The men’s representatives are approaching the officials of the Board of Trade on the subject.

This strike was held by casual labourers employed by the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway Company. It included a deputation of 150 workers to the company’s HQ at London Bridge (The Times, September 29th 1911) and ended on Friday October 6th with The Times reporting that ‘various concessions have been made to the men’ (October 7th 1911).

Deptford has a long history of protest and social change as well as being a culturally rich and diverse town. The Secret History of Our Streets explains that people came to work in Deptford from across Britain, from Ireland and the Low Countries; Jews from Baltic, Poland and Russia; descendants of Huguenots fleeing persecution in Europe […] from Germany, Poland, the Caribbean, India and the United States’.

Whilst industry and trade would come and go, like many areas of London Deptford has remained a culturally diverse community over the last sixty years. Unfortunately, Deptford and New Cross has lost over 70% of its public houses – which it was once famous for – over the last few decades.

The Dog and Bell on Dock Street was for some time officially registered as the Royal Mariner. The first written records of its existence date back to the Old Bailey in 1814, but there is some evidence suggesting that William Boyes operated the pub, or a forerunner of the pub, from as early as 1749. The Dog and Bell and the history of the area is immortalised in the sea shanty Homeward Bound, found in magazines and books from the 1870s. 

“And now we haul to the Dog and Bell, where there’s good liquor for to sell. In comes old Archer with a smile, saying: Drink, my lads, it’s worth your while. For I see you are homeward bound, I see you are homeward bound.”


Bullman, J., Hegarty, N. and Hill, B., 2013. The Secret History of our Streets. London: Elbury Press.

Dover-kent.com. 2022. ROYAL MARINE Pubs of Deptford. [online] Available at: <http://www.dover-kent.com/2014-project-b/Royal-Marine-Deptford.html> [Accessed 19 July 2022].

Ellson, B., Ellson, B. and profile, V., 2022. Homeward Bound – Dog and Bell 2. [online] Deptfordmisc.blogspot.com. Available at: <https://deptfordmisc.blogspot.com/2009/08/homeward-bound-dog-and-bell-2.html> [Accessed 19 July 2022].

En.wikipedia.org. 2022. Deptford Dockyard – Wikipedia. [online] Available at: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deptford_Dockyard> [Accessed 19 July 2022].

Olddeptfordhistory.com. 2022. THE LOST VILLAGE CENTER OF DEPTFORD. [online] Available at: <https://www.olddeptfordhistory.com/2012/05/lost-village-center-of-deptford.html> [Accessed 19 July 2022].

Pubwiki.co.uk. 2022. Dog & Bell, 116 Prince street, Deptford SE8. [online] Available at: <https://pubwiki.co.uk/KentPubs/Deptford/DogBell.shtml> [Accessed 19 July 2022].

Strikes, D., 2022. Deptford 1911: School and Dock Strikes. [online] Transpont.blogspot.com. Available at: <https://transpont.blogspot.com/2010/12/deptford-1911-school-and-dock-strikes.html> [Accessed 19 July 2022].

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